FI Launches Kontain Alpha

Categories: ActionScript Adobe Flex AS3 Cool Sites Flash RIA

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Kontain, the Flash-based blogging and media sharing site from agency powerhouse FI launched its alpha version on November 13th. The evolution of FI’s Propod rich media blogging system, Kontain is a promising and beautifully designed site. The clean design is mildly reminscent of Virb, with a pinch of (new) Facebook thrown in for good measure.

FI is one of few firms that can do full Flash sites very well. However, understanding that it is still an alpha, the site really ought to provide alternate content for computers without Flash installed. And while the site does attempt to redirect to a slimmed down version of the site for iPhone/mobile users, on my iPhone sending to http://i.kontain.com/ failed because of “too many redirects”.

It remains to be seen if the lack of alternate content for search engines will be detrimental (although FI may have plans to provide alternate content in a future release), or if Google’s advancements towards Flash content discover-ability will overcome this sticking point.

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As a funny side note, the back-end for Kontain appears to be running JBoss/Apache on a ColecoVision (operating at 3.58 MHz).

Even Richer Internet Apps with Adobe AIR 1.5

Categories: ActionScript Adobe AIR Adobe Flex AS3 Flash WebKit

Adobe AIR logo

Adobe has just released Adobe AIR 1.5. Now you can take advantage of great features like Pixel Bender for custom filters and fills, the new 3D effects, dynamic video streaming (based on available bandwidth), and the Speex audio codec, aimed at providing high-quality audio delivery at lower bandwidth.

In addition to the existing Encrypted Local Store functionality in earlier versions of AIR, Adobe has now added encrypted local databases, which will make it easier to encrypt and locally persist large data sets.

Also, as a follow up to an earlier post on the use of SquirrelFish in AIR, Adobe has confirmed that this is indeed the case. Adobe AIR 1.5 has a WebKit update that incorporates SquirrelFish - Adobe claims that HTML-based AIR applications can run as much as 35% faster.

Download version 1.5 of Adobe AIR.

Developer and User release notes are available as PDF.

On a related note regarding the Flex Builder 3.0.2 update that takes advantage of the new AIR runtime: be sure to change the app.xml XML namespace to use 1.5 instead of 1.0, as noted on this blog - http://www.bobsgear.com/display/ts/Can%27t+Launch+Air+Apps+After+Upgrading+from+Flex+Builder+3.01+to+Flex+Builder+3.02  I had trouble with my application until I found this post.

Mixed emotions: SVG versus FXG

Categories: Adobe Flex Degrafa Standards Thermo

Adobe has released a new vector graphics specification for Flex called FXG (Flash XML Graphics or FleX Graphics, ostensibly), an XML document format that should make interchange of vector artwork between applications and loading/parsing of vector art at compile-time or run-time more seamless. FXG has provisions for creating various primitives, symbols, and text objects, as well as constructs for transforming and applying bitmap effects to vector data. In a manner similar to Degrafa, FXG documents could conceivably be used for more than simple artwork: they could also be used to define vector-based skin elements for user interfaces. Additionally, vastly improved text handling in Flash Player 10 allows for higher-fidelity skewed and rotated text, along with text on a path, meaning exporting from an application like Adobe Illustrator should produce great looking, highly portable documents.

According to the FXG 1.0 specification, an initial effort was made to use the more standard SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) specification, but the development team found that mapping SVG to Flex classes was going to be more trouble than it was worth in the long run. Mark Anders has a pretty reasonable explanation on this here: http://www.andersblog.com/archives/2008/09/flash_on_the_be.html

I can’t help but ask, though…really? Seeing as Adobe essentially led the charge to ratify the SVG spec as a standard, could it not have been augmented through its built-in extensibility facilities (see SVG Extensions) to accommodate the additions required for Flex? Mark’s explanation is reasonable, to be sure, but it seems like the team gave up on something that could have helped to further cement and promote the use of SVG. A project I’m working on, in particular, would have benefited massively from the ability to use SVG output from Illustrator natively.

Pushing multiple specs that essentially do the same thing only serves to muddy the water, and reminds me of another large software firm, but I digress. Knowing Adobe’s track record, I’m sure there will be good interchange functionality for FXG between various Creative Suite products and applications like Thermo. However, considering SVG already has acceptance as a standard, with a plethora of third-party tools for transforming and working with it, my excitement on the prospects of FXG are mixed at best.

Google Android: iPhone’s Only Real Competition (For Now)

Categories: Google Android iPhone Java

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T-Mobile debuted the first Google Android phone, the HTC G1, at a press conference today, due out October 13 October 22. It will be available at the iPhone-competitive price of $179 with 2-year contract. On-demand coverage of the event is available here: http://announcement.t-mobileg1.com/

IGN has a brief overview on Android, its history, and its benefits. http://gear.ign.com/articles/899/899748p1.html

One of the most interesting parts of the Android platform is the Android Marketplace (which, unfortunately, is not run by Jawas). Designed to be a more open version of the iPhone App Store, Android applications are written in Java, and the Marketplace is open to any developer interested (Apple limits developer access through a fee/approval process, and screens application submissions, sometimes to the chagrin of said would-be developers).

Gizmodo has a list of Android’s most exciting apps: http://gizmodo.com/5053280/androids-10-most-exciting-apps
and there is a list of Android Developer Challenge winners here: http://code.google.com/android/adc_gallery/

While openness is appealing, the number of possible handset configurations has the potential of being a huge headache. Developing for the idiosyncrasies, screen orientations, hardware inputs, and environment specifications of dozens or perhaps hundreds of devices versus developing for a single standardized platform (in the iPhone) could mean the difference between releasing in a few months and in more than a year. It remains to be seen if a system that does not pre-qualify applications will be a good thing, or if it will just end up as a flea market of crapware.

And here’s a collection of Google Android desktop wallpapers so you can sport your Android love.

Adobe and Zend announce collaboration

Categories: Adobe Flex AS3 PHP

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via The Official Flex Team Blog

Adobe and Zend have announced their collaboration in bringing together the benefits of open source Flex with the reliability and flexibility of the enterprise-grade PHP Zend Platform (official press release). A recent article on Adobe Developer Connection details how to get up and running with Zend Studio and the Eclipse plugin version of Flex Builder 3.

 

First impressions of Google Chrome beta

Categories: Google Chrome RIA Web Apps WebKit

I’ve just installed the brand-spanking-new Google Chrome beta (previous post), and I must say, I like the way the UI feels and works. The interface really allows you to focus on the site or webapp you’re using. Google pays homage to browsers like Safari, Opera, and Firefox in their introductory comic (http://books.google.com/books?id=8UsqHohwwVYC&printsec=frontcover), but my initial impression is that Google has done an incredible job of adapting and improving other’s implementations.

Now for some screenshots for those who’ve not yet installed it. The “Stats for nerds” link in the memory usage dialog box made me chuckle a little (third screen below). And notice that in the memory usage screen, Chrome shows memory utilization for other browsers (Firefox 3 is listed in the fourth screen below).

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Chrome has insanely fast JavaScript execution via the V8 engine created by Google Denmark. See the Dromaeo results for Chrome (381.20ms - http://dromaeo.com/?id=30827) versus Dromaeo results for Firefox (1338.60ms - http://dromaeo.com/?id=30827) and Safari (1399.60ms - http://dromaeo.com/?id=30842). Of note there is that I have Chrome running in a virtual machine, VMWare Fusion, which means it could be even faster when running natively on the Mac.

While I haven’t necessarily put Chrome through its paces, I have gotten it to Sad Tab once so far - and it was while using Google Analytics. Maybe their test driven development process (mentioned in the comic) should have stuck closer to home awhile longer.

Chrome also seems to have trouble vetting its own Adsense site’s SSL certificate, but that’s probably related to my not having placed the www in the URL.
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In all I’ve found Google Chrome to be an excellent browser thus far - it’s fast and stable, and integrated Google Gears is going to mean a much higher rate of adoption by developers. Time will tell if this is truly an early phase of the Google OS, but as web browsers go, Chrome is top-notch.

Google Chrome comic by Scott McCloud, SuperSite preview

Categories: Google Chrome RIA Web Apps WebKit

Google Chrome is a new web browser built on WebKit (the same HTML engine used by Apple Safari) designed from the ground up with web applications in mind. Security, speed, and stability in Google Chrome is paramount, with sandboxed tabs, the V8 JavaScript engine, and a multiprocessing architecture.

See the Wikpedia entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Chrome

Prior to the press conference being held at 18:00 GMT (GMT converter) where the beta will be announced, Google has released a comic about Chrome. In my opinion this is a really interesting way to generate buzz about a product. http://books.google.com/books?id=8UsqHohwwVYC&printsec=frontcover

Paul Thurrott, noted Microsoft and Windows pundit, has an early preview and his take on Chrome. http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/google_chrome_preview.asp

Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters help NVIDIA explain GPU parallel processing

Categories: General Graphics

Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters paint the Mona Lisa in 80 milliseconds. Check out this video taken during NVIDIA’s NVISION show.

Adobe Thermo Demo at 360|Flex

Categories: ActionScript Adobe AIR Adobe Flex Flash Thermo

Mark Anders from Adobe gave a preview of Thermo and Flash Player 10 at the 360|Flex conference. It’s a good video for designers interested in Flex-based RIA UI development and for Flex programmers interested in what’s on the horizon for designer/developer collaboration.

Photosynth to the extreme

Categories: DotNET Microsoft

For those not familiar with Microsoft Photosynth, and even for those who are, the following video might knock your socks off.